After the FIFA World Cup, the Champions League is arguably the most popular football competition in the world. With the best players and clubs from all of the biggest leagues around Europe featuring in the competition, more than 450 million people tune in to watch the Champions League final.
Originally established in 1955 as the European Cup, the competition involving Europe's best clubs was rebranded as the Champions League in 1992/93. Since its inception, a total of 22 clubs have won the European Cup/Champions League, 18 of which are Spanish teams. Here’s a brief look at the history of the tournament.
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The first edition of the European Cup took place in 1955 and featured 16 teams from across Europe. The first final was held at the Parc des Princes between Stade de Reims and Real Madrid.
With the scores level at 2-2 at halftime, Reims struck first in the second half through Michel Hidalgo. Despite sitting back and trying to see the rest of the match out, Reims couldn’t keep Los Blancos at bay, and the Spaniards equalised again just five minutes later, before Hector Rial netted what would prove to be the winner in the 79th
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Real Madrid would go on to dominate the competition for the next five years before finally being knocked out of the tournament in the first round by Barcelona. But, the Catalans wouldn't go on to become the second winners of the competition as they were pipped at the post by Portuguese side Benfica - who would go on to defend their crown the following year.
Soundtrack to the stars
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The restructuring of the European Cup to the Champions League inspired the creation of one of the most famous anthems in the world, Champions League
written by Tony Britten. Played before the start of every match in the competition, the Champions League anthem is one of the most recognisable songs in the world.
Commissioned in 1992 to coincide with the start of the newly formed tournament, the chorus of the anthem contains the three official languages used by UEFA – English, German and French. The complete anthem is roughly three minutes long and contains two short verses and the iconic chorus.
We all know the feeling of getting ready to watch your side take part in the Champions League, the anthem comes on and immediately you get goosebumps, but perhaps the feelings inspired by the song were best summed up by Zinedine Zidane when he said, “Magic… it’s magic above all else. When you hear the anthem it captivates you straight away.”
Leaving a legacy
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Despite their rough start to the 2019/20 campaign which saw them go down 3-0 to PSG without a single shot on target, Real Madrid is by far the most dominant club in Champions League history.
In fact they are so dominant that they top every single statistics category, except for one – most red cards – that “honour” goes to Juventus with 27. Here’s a full breakdown of Real Madrid’s record in the UEFA Champions League:
- Most titles – 13
- Most appearances – 44
- Most matches – 432
- Most wins – 259
- Most draws – 74
- Most defeats – 99
- Most goals scored – 957
- Most goals conceded – 471
They are also the only club to win more than three titles in a row. Their domination of the then European Cup, from 1955 to 1960 saw them win five titles on the bounce.
Record breaking performances
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The Champions League might feature some of the world’s most popular and exciting teams, but without the best players in the world stepping out onto the field each week, it would probably end up being just like any other competition. Throughout the years records have been shattered by players who many would consider the greatest of all time.
Cristiano Ronaldo, for example, holds so many records there’s too many to name. Just a few include most goals (127), most assists (39), most penalties scored (16), and most goals in a season (17).
But Ronaldo isn’t the only player who has more than one record to his name, Iker Casillas currently holds the record for the most matches (181), most minutes played (16 267), most clean sheets (55) and most penalties saved (5).
The Champions League is well underway and there have already been cracking goals and thrilling upsets. Bet on every Champions League fixture
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